I’ve worked and lived here at MacEwan University as a Residence Life Coordinator for almost 3000 days and have spent a tremendous amount of time in my office. Recently, I accepted a secondment to be Director of Residence Services. Many people have asked me if I will be moving into the Director’s office. I reply with an emphatic no every time. My office is my place of peace and harmony. It has taken me eight years to create a place where students feel at ease and I can be productive. While material things, at the end of the day (especially in the light of the Fort McMurray fires #AlbertaStrong), can be replaced, I love when a student says “this is the coolest office I’ve ever been in.”
As a CHO, the President of the University came into my office as we were moving-in Fort Mac evacuees. He didn’t comment on the oddities in the space, but I wondered if he noticed the Doctor Who sonic screwdriver, the original Enterprise comm panel, or the Wall-E toy. I believe tremendously in the power of relationships and that being leaderful is not a function of a title, rank, or Twitter followers, but in the ability to build bonds between people that enable others to be successful. Making my office a place of comfort for myself is just as important as it being comfortable for the students who sit down and unburden themselves of whatever weight they are carrying. Here are the pieces that reflect who I am as a professional. Welcome to my student affairs dojo:
The first thing you notice when you approach the office is the door sign. For those of you not versed in the incredibleness of Doctor Who, since the re-imagined series came on the air, I have been immersed in the idea that life is what we choose it to be. As the 11th Doctor said: “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” Setting the tone from the start on what kind of conversation we will have in this space is important, even if no one will really get it. Also I enjoy watching new RAs trying to pull the door open when you clearly need to push it.
Once you enter, you will find yourself surrounded by all things student affairs and well, rather geeky. Clearly, I have too much stuff to move. People are attracted to the books before anything else. I find that a relief because I’ll never know everything, and so great writers carrying the load and creating inspiration is incredibly comforting to me.
Above the bookshelf you will find photos of the most important people in my life – family and friends. They’re on that bookshelf intentionally so that when I am talking to a student they are in my line of sight. I think it keeps me grounded and humble because my Mother watches every decision and statement I make. Above are the credentials I’ve earned in my education. They cost a lot of time and money and serve as a reminder to students that you can accomplish anything.
No matter where I go, I’ll always have something related to Star Trek close by, if only to remind me to boldly go. The comm panel was a gift from a friend and it looks like it’s really supposed to be there in the concrete pillar. I tell people it connects to my Bat Cave.
This is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the most important documents in Canadian history, it outlined the fundamentals that every Canadian can expect from this great nation. I have it in my office because I want everyone to know that at the end of the day, even if I make a decision they don’t like, that it will be as fair as it possibly can be. There are limits to everything, but we must never forget that every student is entitled to be treated fairly and equitably. Our superstar Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed it for me, which makes it even more awesome.
The desk, mission control, the heart of the residence life operation. I absolutely hate paper so I keep it to a minimum. I hate cables so if something can be wireless it will be. I’m a big believer in having a clear desk when meeting with people so it does not feel like there is anything hindering an honest conversation. Stacks of papers or books feel like a distraction.
My buddy Jack! If you haven’t watched the movie Skyfall, please watch it immediately and you will understand why Jack sits atop my desk. Leadership and responsibility go hand in hand and I think Jack(despite being ugly) reflects how seriously I take my responsibilities to the institution and students.
The wall of fame! Every student leader I have worked with is here. Just as my mother watches me from the sidelines, these photos keep me focused on what matters: student success.
West Wing fans will know why the pink ball matters, and Battlestar Galactica fans will know why the notebook doesn’t have corners. This is the only kind of paper I like for to do lists. The sonic screwdriver helps readjust cranky attitudes (or at least gives people a good laugh when I try to use it on myself or them). It also makes a great paper weight.
Some might say the space is unprofessional, has too much on the walls, or that the Hans Zimmer score playing in the background is too distracting. I do believe, however, that if you create a space that fosters creativity and imagination, you can achieve wonders!
This post is part of our #DeskDiaries series, which aims to take a fun look at the diverse sets of work spaces that student affairs professionals have at the end of the year. Whether you can’t even see your computer, or your desk finally organized, we want to discover the nature of our field one desk at a time. For more information, please see Sabina’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Dean Kenneth Elmore on Student Engagement Efforts